Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oops, He Did It Again

Ah, Fareed Zakaria weighs in on Iraq. God bless him. But the man couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal. But let's look anyway, shall we?

You are never going to guess who Zakaria blames for the current Iraq crisis. Go on. Guess!

Okay, sure, he puts in Prime Minister Maliki. The man who is in charge when the crisis explodes is surely a likely suspect, no?

Zakaria blames Maliki for the failure to get a status of forces agreement to keep American troops in Iraq after 2011, when any sentient being with a half-functioning brain stem (and you'd think this would include Zakaria, but apparently not) knows that President Obama had no interest at all in finding a way to get to "yes."

We could have gotten an executive agreement but we insisted on parliament passing the agreement; and we pledged so few troops that Maliki could not afford to alienate Iran just to attempt to get a mere 5,000 American troops that the Obama administration offered to keep in Iraq. (I wanted 25,000 including 3 training brigades plus special forces and air power to help finish off al Qaeda and keep Iraqis from abandoning politics for violence to resolve differences.) The benefit-cost ratio was just too low for Maliki to risk defeat trying to keep us in Iraq.

Obama let the discussions languish and then when 2011 neared its end, said "We tried. So sorry." President Obama got exactly what he wanted. Don't try to pretend otherwise now.

But you'd be wrong if you thought Zakaria included President Obama as the other man in charge of a relevant country when the crisis explodes.

No, Zakaria blames George W. Bush. Yes, more than five years after the shadow of cowboyism lifted from the Oval Office and the world, Zakaria blames Bush.

Behold, puny mortals, the prodigious output of Zakaria's ginormous brain!

[The Bush administration] quickly decided to destroy Iraq’s Sunni ruling establishment and empower the hard-line Shiite religious parties that had opposed Saddam Hussein. This meant that a structure of Sunni power that had been in the area for centuries collapsed. These moves — to disband the army, dismantle the bureaucracy and purge Sunnis in general — might have been more consequential than the invasion itself.

One, we did not disband the Iraqi army. It collapsed and went home. There was nothing to disband.

Two, if Saddam's army hadn't collapsed we'd have had to disband it. In what world would the Kurds and Shias have sided with us if we had simply played musical chairs with minority-Sunni Arab (10-15%) domination of Iraq?

It was also absolutely necessary to purge the bureaucracy of higher ranking Sunnis and promote Shias (and Kurds) in the rebuilt security forces to keep the overthrow of Saddam from looking like new ruler same as the old ruler.

Having betrayed the Shias once in 1991 when they rose up against Saddam and we watched Saddam slaughter them into passivity, could we really have screwed the Shias a second time and not expected them to rise up against us?

Three, we actually fought the hard-line Shia religious parties. Remember Moqtada al Sadr, that breathing piece of garbage who we fought in two separate campaigns in 2004? And then again we fought the Shia hardliners in Sadr City during the surge offensive of 2007? Remember that? Zakaria, apparently, does not.

We had to put the Shias in the dominant position. Had to. Anything else would have led to a national uprising against us that had us fighting Sunni Arabs (Baathists and al Qaeda) and Iranian-backed Shias (while the Kurds hunkered down in the north).

If you must Blame Bush for allowing the disastrous Maliki into office, also remember that in spring 2008, Maliki showed he'd take on the Iranian-backed Shias (including Sadr) by mounting an offensive against them in Basra (the Charge of the Knights offensive). That Maliki stopped looking beyond sectarian divisions after we left in 2011 can't really be blamed on the Bush-era Maliki, now can it?

What might we have done had we stayed after 2011 to keep Maliki in line?

However, if you must include Maliki in the blame game while blaming Bush ultimately for Maliki, let's not forget the Obama administration's role in perpetuating Maliki's rule. In 2010, the Obama administration sided with Maliki cobbling together a parliamentary majority even though he did not win the most votes in that year's election. So the Obama administration ratified the so-called horrible Bush-era elevation of Maliki.

I almost always regret reading Zakaria. The man truly thinks he can get a government position in the foreign policy establishment in this administration. I shudder in horror that the wise and level-headed Susan Rice or that master of diplomatic nuance John Kerry might be replaced by Zakaria.

Without Zakaria, President Obama has managed to pull the spectre of defeat in Iraq from the jaws of Bush-engineered victory. We have enough problems in Iraq without letting Zakaria have any type of influence at all over what we do.